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Is the Lord's Prayer Non-denominational?

Is the Lord's Prayer Non-denominational?

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Question:

For years, we have been closing Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with the Lord's Prayer, as do many other groups. We sometimes have Jewish people attending, and I had been taught this was a universal prayer. Lately, by request, we have begun to consider closing with something else. What do you think?

Answer:

Shalom,

It's true that the Lord's Prayer fits equally across all the Abrahamic traditions. It is similar in many ways to prayers that were popular among pious Jews in Roman times, including the kaddish prayer, and reflects traditional Jewish values. You may wish to read more on this in the relevant article in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

Nevertheless, Jews do not say this prayer. If a Jew attends an AA meeting where it is recited, he does not have to leave, but he should not recite it along with them. The reason is easy to understand: Its source is what is called "The New Testament". The existence of the Jewish People is predicated on an eternal pact G-d made with Abraham and later with his descendants at Mount Sinai. A "New Testament" implies that this pact was somehow annulled. By reciting a prayer from a context that undermines the existential foundation of his people, a Jew feels that he is surrendering his unique identity to the ideology of the majority culture. It seems to me that this runs contrary to the aims and goals of AA, which looks to strengthen each member's identity as a unique individual, with his own meaning and purpose in life.

Many AA groups and other 12-step societies have a practice of saying the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd...." The Psalms are revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and this one in particular relates closely to the theme of AA.

Please let me know if this helps,

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Discussion (60)
December 26, 2013
I am a Jew, sober for over 15 years. The subject of the Lord's Prayer at the end of meetings has always caused me inner turmoil. Getting sober, I built a foundation within myself. I would love to say that my connection to G-d is at the center of that foundation, but in all humility, I cannot say that. My faith is simply not as strong as I wish I could claim it to be. What is at the center of it is that I am, at all times, true to myself. This is crucial for me, since while drinking, I lied to myself repeatedly and became a stranger to myself. To me, that is the one way I know to be truly lost.
At times I have tried to say the Lord's prayer, as a method of surrendering my self-will. I have never felt comfortable. I must choose between feeling uncomfortable saying it, or uncomfortable feeling alienated by not participating with the group. I choose the latter. I take solace that I may inspire courage in newcomer' who feel similarly to me, who may feel pressure to do as others do.
Steve
January 26, 2013
Group conscious
The wonderful thing about AA is if you do not like what a group is doing bring it up at the business meeting. If that does not fix your concerns. Start your own group!
My home group does things that offend some old timers..but we are sober, we are strong on the steps and we help others. That is all that is important.
Steve
So Fla
November 17, 2012
lords prayer and steps
I've been in and out of Alanon since the 80's & have been struggling with the LP on and off. The program promotes "God of your Understanding" and the LP states God as "our father." Not everyone's God is "their father." In fact, as we all know many non-religious people use the group or even an object as their higher power. Also, the steps refer to God as "him." My higher power is not a "him." If I thought of HP in a masculine sense it would impede my sense of spirituality. I generally leave the room when LP is recited and haven't always felt so comfortable about it. In all the years, I have only seen 3 other people do it. (including someone who simply joined me so I wouldn't feel alone). In recent years the Prayer Books for Reformed Judiasm have changed and presently the words him, he, king etc. are replaced with God, Soverign, etc. Since this changed, I am more comfortable in my worship of Judiasm. I'm attempting to create a parallel between my religion & Alanon.
Sharon
PA
October 28, 2012
To Anonymous in Pasadena, CA
You phrased it so well! Amen!
George Carr
Miami, FL
October 27, 2012
As to AA & religion..
B"H
The book which is the basic founding text for the Alcoholics Anonymous program states emphatically, "We realize we know only a little, G-d will disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him each day in your morning meditation, what you can do for the man who is still sick and suffering..." It also has an entire chapter devoted to the subject of G-d or a Higher Power (chptr 4 To The Agnostic). Yet this is still only a beginning for those who are attempting to be freed from addictions to alcohol and otther substances, The AA program is similar to the activities of the lifeguards at the ocean, when some one yells for help the good lifeguard dives in and does not disciminate when saving lives. It is the Primary Purpose of AA (and NA) for the members to stay clean and sober and to help others to achieve sobriety...Period! Prayers? No prayer is worthy to stand before HaShem if it is not from the heart, regardless of the words, or even the language men may use. There is no liturgy in AA.
Anonymous
Pasadena, CA
October 14, 2012
The Lord's Prayer
The argument that the Lord's Prayer is not a Jewish prayer, and reciting it in AA meetings go really against the AA prinicples of not being associated with any religion. This is why when N.A. was founded (about 20 years after AA foundation) they started praying the "Serenity Prayer", which was more widely accepted.
George Carr
Miami, FL
October 12, 2012
Jew who found G-d in AA
Yes. I'm a Jew who found G-d in AA and later realized that my conception of a Higher Power is completely consistent with my Jewish roots. Therefore, I was able to adopt my religion into my heart and was opened to the wealth of spirituality in Judaism. As they say, when the student is ready the master appears. I don't believe saying the Lord's Prayer in an AA meeting necessitates a belief in Jesus. The New Testament was written by Jews after all and the divination of Christ wasn't decided until the council of Nicea, though even that shouldn't be the deciding factor here. Rabbi Freeman, based on your assertion that a prayer comprised and written after our covenant with G-d is not Jewish, does that mean any prayer I write or say for my own well being is also not Jewish? I say the Lord's prayer at AA meetings but I believe the intention within one's heart while reciting the prayer determines whether the prayer is meant as universal (in my case) or Christian.
Anonymous
Los Angeles, CA
August 3, 2012
We are trying...
I am a member of AA and a Jew. If AA is able to retrieve one soul from the hell that is addiction/alcoholism, God Bless the organization. Theologically, AA may be misguided, misinformed, mistaken, etc. However, I am less concerned with their epistemology than I am with the fact that AA is saving human lives. (AA saved my life). What is more Jewish than that?
Tess S.
Arizona
April 30, 2012
AA and Lord's Prayer
I quietly say the Shema, Shehekianu and Baruch shem kevod malchuto l'olam va'ed. The cadence goes right along with the other people's recitation of the Lord's Prayer and nobody has ever taken issue with it.. and I live in a small town where there is NO Jewish presence. The group has welcomed me completely.
Anonymous
Bastrop, TX
April 6, 2012
G-d, our Father
Is there a prayer that includes the words "G-d, our Father"?
Anonymous
Boynton Beach, FL
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